I stumbled across this by accident, but if like me you’ve noticed that Adobe PDF files don’t show up properly in file previews in 64-bit Windows 7 or Vista, then Leo Davidson has created a handy tool that fixes the problem. It also fixes thumbnail rendering within Explorer in 64-bit Windows too (except for XP64). Although the fix needs re-applying each time Adobe Reader is updated (until they actually fix it themselves!) it’s a digitally signed application, so it should install without any issues. My Windows 7 x64 machine is at work, so I’ll have to try it on Monday and see, but by all accounts the fix is a good ‘un.

Roundcube Webmail Logo

The developers of my favourite webmail client – Roundcube, have just announced the official release for version 0.3, which brings with it a bunch of new features and a whole heap of tweaks.

Probably the most interesting addition is plug-in support. Previously, any extra features required patching the main source of the application, which generally resulted in messy and hard-to-maintain code, which was very tricky to upgrade. Now though, there is a complete plug-in API. Hopefully this will mean a veritable deluge of useful add-ons in the not-too-distant future.

Roundcube's main mail view

The main mail view in Roundcube 0.3

For now though, I’ll happily make do with the default installation, as it already provides a handy selection of features. It may not be as versatile as SquirrelMail, but it is certainly better looking…!

One upshot of being a little quieter at work during the schools’ summer break is that I’ve been able to work on our new Helpdesk system. It’s now almost reached the point where we’ll be trialling the ticketing part with a few clients (there’s just a few tweaks and some more testing to go).

A screenshot of the tickets overview for the new DataSwift Helpdesk

A screenshot of the tickets overview for the new DataSwift Helpdesk

Eventually the Helpdesk will provide an integrated inventory, knowledge-base and downloads system. Much of the back-end is already present for these, but it’s getting the user-interface sorted that takes a fair amount of careful planning.

Xara (now owned by German company Magix) have just released a new version of their flagship Xtreme product. Upgrades for both the standard and pro editions are available, and a comprehensive list of changes is available from this Google Docs document.

Over at TalkGraphics, it’s getting something of a mixed reaction; those who use Xtreme primarily for its vector graphics capabilities to create artwork are somewhat miffed at the apparent paucity of new vector-related features, but other users are happy to see such longstanding requests as a spell-checker, and better object/layer management tools.

Personally, I can understand both viewpoints; historically, Xara was very much focussed on the digital artist, but the last few updates seem to be an attempt at broadening its user-base to include basic website design and desktop publishing. If it brings in the funding to continue development, and doesn’t get in the way of creating artwork, then I’m all for it. Let’s hope the next version has some more groundbreaking vector-related improvements though.

Interestingly it’s one of the first software titles I’ve seen that specifically mentions Windows 7 support – I know that much everything that was Vista compatible should work under 7, but it’s always good to be reassured.

I’ve managed to avoid starting on the redesign of wightmusic.com by playing with Xtreme 5 for long enough… back to work it is…!

EA have put up a form for applying for Beta keys for the rather delayed Battlefield Heroes online shooter – no guarantee of when you’ll get in though. You’ll also need to register for an EA account if you don’t already have one. Comments Off on Battlefield Heroes – beta signup form available

Friday was the first time in a couple of years that I made it to the BETT show (it stands for the British Educational Training and Technology show) and despite it being a bit of a long day, with far too few seats, and coffee that was stupidly expensive, it was a worthwhile trip.

The biggest stands weren’t actually the most interesting ones (aside from Intel’s – more about that one later). There were a number of smaller companies exhibiting some pretty original ideas, and despite much of it being targeted at visiting teachers, it was still worth a look.

It was good to drop by the Edugeek stand, and finally put faces to some of the names that frequent the forums, – it was also good to get a free smoothie from the guys on the Smoothwall stand next-door, especially taking into account the pricing of refreshments in the place!

Although I’m currently in the process of writing our own helpdesk system at DataSwift, the folks at the Topdesk stand seem to have an impressive product for a pretty reasonable price (they’ve sent me a demo pack, which I’ve yet to try out).

I wasn’t exactly inspired by one stand, where the salesperson didn’t even know the basic system requirements of their (pretty technical) product! – nor by another vendor, who tried in vain to demonstrate how good their product was, only to have it time-out with every other click…

Intel had a number of their new Classmate 3 netbook-cum-tablet-pcs on their stand, and had apparently seeded them liberally throughout the exhibition halls. The new machine (apparently on sale soon as the NEC Otomo) is pretty standard Netbook specification on the inside:

  • Intel Atom CPU (1.6Ghz)
  • 1GB RAM (upgradeable)
  • 1024 x 600 8.9″ TFT display
  • 60GB HDD (or a 16GB Solid State Device)
  • 802.11b/g/n wireless
  • SD card reader
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • VGA connector
  • Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Touch-screen

It’s that last item on the list that gives a clue toward what makes it stand out from the crowd, – it’s effectively a tiny tablet-pc, albeit with a fairly low-end touch screen, so handwriting recognition isn’t likely to be stunning. A lot of educational software is targeted at interactive whiteboards these days, and -assuming it will run in the 1024×600 screen size- it should be equally at home on the Classmate/Otomo. The case of the machine is pretty rugged too, with a carry handle integrated into the chassis. Apparently it’s been drop tested at heights of up to 60cm officially, and up to 1m unofficially, so it should be capable of withstanding most of the rigours of classroom life (especially if you go for the SSD option).

We’re looking at getting a demonstration model at DataSwift, so may be able to let local schools have a play if they missed out at BETT.

Now if only I can tear myself away from interesting gadgets, and get our helpdesk finished…!

WordPress has just announced the official release of version 2.7  (codenamed Coltrane) of their blogging / content-management system. I’ve just upgraded both this site and the DataSwift one to the latest and greatest, with -so far- no issues at all!

The administration interface (known as the Dashboard) has been completely redesigned and is now a lot more customisable. It should also reduce the number of steps involved in carrying out everyday tasks.

The developers of WordPress have just announced the (one month earlier than scheduled!) release of WordPress 2.6. There’s a fair few new features, with the major one being change-tracking – enabling you to view previous versions of pages and posts, and also compare the differences.

There’s been various other improvements too, including a real-time word-count, image captions and more.

As I’ve come to expect these days, the upgrade from 2.5 went very smoothly.

Xara have released a bug-fix update for both the standard and Pro versions of Xtreme 4. 4.01 has a large number of bugs squashed and is recommended for all users. You’ll need to be running the CD version of the software though. Comments Off on Xara Xtreme 4.01 Update

After having waited for ages, I finally bought the bits to make a proper media centre PC. I went for an Antec Fusion case, an AMD 4450e CPU, 4GB DDR800 RAM, a 750GB WD Green Power hard drive, a Scythe Mini-Ninja cooler and the Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H motherboard.

The hardware assembly was actually the easy part (aside from a slight omission in the manual regarding the front panel connectors). I’d decided to go with Mythbuntu (based on the recently released Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron) and the initial install actually went pretty smoothly – some people had experienced issues with the AHCI mode for the SATA ports, but once I was on BIOS revision F4 everything seemed to be ok.

My main gripe is that Mythbuntu (currently) doesn’t make it easy enough to do what I actually want – I love tinkering with Linux as much as the next geek, but I want my media centre to just work, – I’m sure the display issues would probably be sorted if I bought an Nvidia card, and that the myriad other small niggles are solvable, but that’s not the point.

At this time I’m backing up my media, and am about to install a trial of Windows Vista – but if I do go with that, I’m going to run a Ubuntu server in a virtual machine.